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January 14, 2006

Know Your Client, Its Business and Its Culture--Great Post From More Partner Income

Thanks to a nice post by Arnie Herz at Legal Sanity, I focused more quickly on another great post on January 10 by Tom Collins of morepartnerincome called "Why Don't Outside Lawyers Understand Our Business?". I regularly read Tom's blawg, but I'll use his post in an upcoming rule in the "12-step" program I've been writing for us service-challenged lawyers (we're up to Rule Six, and one of the final six will be about really knowing the client you serve).

Because understanding your client deeply and thoroughly can't be emphasized enough. In December Pat Lamb posted and I posted on the actual "real life" Georgia meeting of GCs that serves as a springboard for Tom's post. And consistently Tom Kane at The Legal Marketing Blog has posted a lot of insightful things about the subject. But Tom Collins's recent post says it all for me in his concluding paragraphs:

The dialogue between the panel and the audience of corporate counsels highlights the difference between what clients perceive as “good service” and what attorneys continue to believe is their obligation regarding quality service. It is not about how competent you are. You are supposed to be competent. It is about your “bedside manner”. You are in the service business. You happen to be in the lawyering service business.

If you want to retain and grow your relationship, you have to invest in understanding the Client’s purpose, its goals, its culture, the issues it faces, and even its “words”. If the client calls its employees “associates”, you need to call them associates. If the client calls its trucks “package cars”, they are package cars!

Excellence must be earned through the eyes of your client.

I add only this. It's more natural for any sane shareholder or senior partner to know a lot about his or her firm's business client, what it does, where it does it, who the players are, what its words and phrases are, what it says it expects from lawyers, and what its "culture" is. Call it a touchy-feely concept or not--but a "business's culture" is a living and breathing thing. All businesses have them. But everyone in your firm--paralegals, support folks and especially associates, who in our firm have lots of contact with clients--need to (1) study new clients, (2) "get" them and (3) keep getting them as life for the client develops and inevitably changes. I'm glad Pat Lamb, Arnie Herz, Tom Kane and Tom Collins and others are talking about this.

Posted by JD Hull at January 14, 2006 09:59 AM

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